Rufus Peckham

Media Items
Personal Information
Thursday, November 8, 1838
Sunday, October 24, 1909
Childhood Location 
New York
Childhood Surroundings 
New York
Associate Justice
Nominated By 
Commissioned on 
Monday, December 9, 1895
Sworn In 
Monday, January 6, 1896
Left Office 
Sunday, October 24, 1909
Reason For Leaving 
Length of Service 
13 years, 9 months, 18 days
New York
Rufus Peckham
The Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States (Artist: C. Gregory Stapko)

President Grover Cleveland made Rufus W. Peckham his fourth, and last, appointment to the Supreme Court in 1896. Peckham had served for eight years on the highest court for the state of New York (the New York Court of Appeals).

Peckham will long be remembered for invoking the idea of "substantive due process" to invalidate a state statute regulating the hours of bakery employees. His opinion in that case aroused one of the most famous dissents in the history of the Court. Peckham took as his mission the separation of state powers from national powers and the separation of all government from individual rights. His was a daunting task, for as his colleague, Oliver Wendell Holmes observed, the major premise of Peckham's jurisprudence was "God damn it."

Peckham wrote frequently while he was on the bench but modern students of constitutional law find his reasoning "unfathomable" and the results reached by that reasoning "insupportable."

Clerk Law Schoolsort icon Terms Clerked
Jesse C. Ball 1902, 1903, 1895, 1896, 1900
John E. Hoover 1904
S. Edward Widdifield 1904, 1907

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Rufus Peckham. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 29 August 2015. <>.
Rufus Peckham, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 29, 2015).
"Rufus Peckham," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 29, 2015,